Accident Investigation Policies
An accident investigation policy must state which situations must be investigated, when the investigation should occur, the purpose of the investigation, and how investigations will be conducted. Implementation of these policies may differ depending on the type and severity of a particular accident.
Key Principles of Accident Investigation
|That the primary or underlying cause (root cause) of the accident and its contributing causes are discovered.|
|Taking corrective action for every accident cause that is discovered in order to prevent recurrence. Assign a person to be responsible and a completion date to each corrective action. Assign someone from management to follow-up on corrective actions to ensure that each action is accomplished on time.|
|Communicating accident findings to all employees when completed along with program changes that result from corrective actions.|
|Determining if training or retraining is necessary to prevent future occurrences.|
Those conducting the investigations should be
trained in investigation procedures, securing
and protecting evidence, gathering facts and
interviewing witnesses. An investigator must
avoid assigning blame; to do so would be
counterproductive to the investigation and
might hamper future investigations.
Accident investigations should be conducted as soon as possible after the incident. When injuries are involved, the investigation usually begins after medical assistance has been provided and the injured employee has been transported to a medical facility. However, if an investigation can be started without hampering medical assistance, then it should begin immediately.
The first step in conducting an accident
investigation is to prevent disruption of
the scene and to protect evidence. Use
barricade tape or assign a person to keep
out unnecessary personnel who may disrupt
the scene. This does not include emergency
responders, law enforcement or your
insurer’s claims department who you should
work cooperatively with.
The second step is to locate witnesses and take their statements. Witnesses must be interviewed individually and should be asked to refrain from discussing the accident with others until an investigator can take a written or recorded statement. It is important that witnesses be told the reason for the interview is to determine facts and find the accident cause, not to find scapegoats or place blame.
The third step is to inspect, document and make a sketch of the accident scene.
- The scene of an accident may be visited a number of times after the accident occurs as new information or questions arise.
- It is important to make initial observations, take digital photographs, and draw sketches as soon as possible after an accident since witnesses can forget important facts. The investigator’s notes should be clear and concise and reflect only the facts brought out in the investigation, along with statements offered by witnesses. The investigator should not form opinions or guess as to accident causes.
- Secure, label or tag evidence that is removed from the accident area so that it does not become damaged, contaminated or lost.
- An evidence log, which must remain with the accident investigation file, should list all evidence that has been secured, sketched or photographed. The evidence log should state each type of evidence, how it was secured, where it is located, and who is in control of it. When equipment or machinery is involved in an accident, it is important to record the exact type, make, model number, serial number and other features.